While the NYC subway system offers a vast network of traffic-free trains to get you from location A to B in a (theoretically) snap, there are some justified complaints about why one may want to skip out on a subway ride entirely. There are, of course, the constant stream of delays and service disruptions (don’t get us started on weekend service!) that appear to be ever-increasing with this decaying century-old transport system, not to mention the current reports of scary full-out derailments.
In fact, most recently, New York State Governor Cuomo went so far as to declare an NYC subway “state of emergency” in June of 2017 to help make it simpler for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA — which manages the crumbling metro system — to make much-needed renovations on its infrastructure. Also, that is all on top of the subway’s everyday unpleasantries, like the widespread rat colony residents, unapologetic “manspreaders,” or the unpleasant soupy smell that only a steamy-August-day-in-a-NYC-subway-station could possibly conjure up.
Fortunately, in a mega-city like New York, there are always options, and that comes in place for transportation, too. Here, we list your five best options for getting around NYC, without ever having to step foot on the subway.
There is never a better way to see the big city, immersing yourself in its unique on-the-ground sensory overload, than by placing your feet to NYC’s streets. Indeed, whenever logistically possible, walking is one of New Yorkers’ primary modes of getting around town, as evidenced by the astounding foot-traveler traffic flow that overtakes sidewalks in any given neighborhood. Moreover, surprisingly, it can actually be one of the quickest ways to get around, to boot, particularly when factoring in the rush hour traffic and jam-packed subway options.
Yes, NYC is one of the world’s famous walking cities (and particularly so in Manhattan’s easily traversable, flat, “grid” system of streets), so plot your route and get set to pound some pavement, sopping up all of the fabulous people-watching, architectural details, shopping, and foodie opportunities en route. Are you lost on your way? Yes, No problem: New Yorkers are pretty great at communicating directions, too.
While the MTA may come up short with its subway service, its equivalent public bus branch is, happily, less likely to complaints — so long as you are not particularly pressed for time. A vast web of NYC bus maps and designated stops traverse the big city — you can check a route map at several bus stops, take a printed map at any select subway station booths around you, or visit MTA.info for detailed routing info.
If you take a seat by the window, a bus ride can actually be a delightful way to do some sightseeing, as well. Just take heed: long traffic jams can make this above-ground form of transport a painstakingly sluggish commute during rush hour, and while various routes give 24-hour service, late-night schedules can be scarce. Bus fare is the same as that of the subway: $2.75 a pop, which is further payable by MetroCard (that you need to buy before you board), or, if you are old school, the exact change in coins.
Another alternative is one of the city’s hop-on, Hop-off double-decker tour buses, like those operated by Open Loop or Big Bus, which are a reliable bet for first-time visitors short on time. You will pay a premium for a ticket but will get some description for a bona fide sightseeing tour accompanying with your transport between some unique NYC tourism hot spots.
By Taxi or Car Service
When distances are great, the weather is miserable, you have got bags to bog you down, or you are just too plain tired to schlep otherwise, hopping in a taxi or calling a car service is the most suitable and direct way to get around town (though note that this taxi route can be very pricey — yellow taxi fares start at $2.50 and increase 50¢ each one-fifth of a mile). That is, when the city’s annoying traffic conditions allow for it — dare to hop in a taxi during the climax of rush hour, and you’ll risk covering the route a little more than a snail’s pace.
New York city’s fleet of yellow taxis (or rather green Boro Taxis, which are dedicated to servicing the four NYC boroughs surpassing Manhattan — as well as upper Manhattan above E. 96th St.) are authorized by the Taxi and Limousine Commission, and can be signaled curbside on demand with just a wave of the arm, 24 hours a day. Simply take note of the roof medallion light on top of the cab — if the light is out, it’s already filled and will breeze right by you, despite how you might flail. Moreover, be forewarned: Hailing cabs during the peak-demand intervals, like rush hour or when it’s raining, can be an apparently impossible feat. Note that a cab can hold a maximum of four passengers (Even though one additional kid under the age of 7 is permitted if seated on an adult passenger’s lap), so prepare accordingly.
There are likewise plenty of call-up car services, also, like Dial 7 (212/777–7777) or Carmel (212/666–6666), that you can book for door-to-door service in prior (but note they are typically priced at a premium to yellow taxicabs), while ride-sharing car services like Lyft and Uber are another convenient option, with both touting abundant cars on call throughout the city.
While it is easy to forget, New York City is an island destination, with the districts spread out over Staten Island, Manhattan Island, and Brooklyn and Queens sharing the space on Long Island; in fact, just the Bronx is connected to the mainland U.S. It fits then that navigating through the city by its waterways is not only totally feasible but downright enjoyable, especially during warmer days. The NYC Ferry system saw a tremendous expansion in 2017, with amounts of new routes cropping up between Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn along the East River waterway and beyond — and all given for the same price as a subway fare of ($2.75), to boot. Just Hop on board for a ride on over to newly debuted locations like Astoria, Queens, for its exceptional Greek food or museums, or the Rockaways, for beaches and surfing.
Of course, there is the Staten Island Ferry, too, which will zip you over to Staten Island absolutely for free — not only does it extend some of the best views of Lady Liberty and New York Harbor, but 2019 will welcome the debut of the world’s biggest Ferris wheel alongst with the Empire Outlets, NYC’s very first outlet mall, both set to open their doors just a few steps from the Staten Island ferry station.
Further worth looking into is the New York Water Taxi, which operates between the west and east sides of Manhattan, with stops at favorite tourist scenes like the World Trade Center, the Brooklyn waterfront at DUMBO and the South Street Seaport— you can get an all-day pass for just $35.
Navigating the city on two wheels is not only good for our environment and your health but can really be quite fun, too. Fortunately, the city has taken great moves over the last decade to develop city infrastructure for cyclists, with a slate of assigned bike lanes now implemented throughout the town. (You can find an excellent downloadable bike map that is published by the NYC Department of Transportation for an impression of available routes.)
If you do not own your own bicycle, you can hire one for a half or full day (or longer) from various city bike shops (like Bike and Roll or Blazing Saddles), or you can even look into New York City’s bike-sharing system, Citi Bike, which began in 2013, bringing about10,000 bikes to some 600 bike stations over Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. Citi Bike rentals are available all around the clock, with daily, three-day, and yearly passes available.